Small Kitchen Appliances That Are a Must — Plus 4 That Aren’t

Not all small kitchen appliances are as useful as they claim! Here are the five must-have gadgets, plus a few that aren't worth it.

These days, there’s a whole slew of small kitchen appliances out there. They all promise to make cooking easier, cut your time in the kitchen in half, or even change your life. There’s no doubt that all these kitchen gadgets do some cool things. However, do we really need all of these things cluttering up the kitchen?

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As someone who has purchased more small kitchen appliances than I’d like to admit, I’m something of an unofficial expert. Perhaps you are, too. It happens to the best of us!

There really are some small appliances that are worth the purchase. They might take up precious countertop real estate or a spot in the cabinet, but they are actually useful. I’ve listed out my top five most useful ones here. Every kitchen (even tiny apartment kitchens!) should have these guys handy.

On the flip side, I’ve also listed a few small appliances that aren’t worth the splurge. You’ll find that the novelty wears off pretty quickly, and they don’t get used enough to earn their spot in the cabinet.

MUST: Immersion Blender

KitchenAid immersion blender

I know you may already have a good ol’ regular blender. You might be like I used to be, thinking, “Gee, what do I need with another blender?” Trust me when I say that an immersion blender is a MUST. It took me many, many years to finally wind up with an immersion blender, and after the very first use, I wondered why it took me so long!

To be completely honest, there isn’t much that a standard blender can do that the immersion blender can’t. It can blend at multiple speeds similar to how regular blenders do, making smooth soups and silky sauces.

The immersion blender does have a leg up in a situation or two. These slim appliances are designed to go directly into a pot, bowl, or measuring cup. That means I don’t have to transfer a piping hot pot of potatoes and broccoli into a blender to create a smooth soup. I can blend my smoothie directly into the cup! The immersion blender is also extremely easy to clean, and there are less parts.

MUST: Hand Mixer

Cuisinart hand mixer

I know the classic (usually KitchenAid) stand mixer is a standard fixture in everyone’s dream kitchen, but the hand mixer comes out on top as the must-have small appliance. Why? Because a big stand mixer takes up a lot of valuable counter space, and they aren’t as versatile.

Hand mixers eliminate the need to use a specific bowl. That means you can mix, whisk, and beat anything in basically any container. Hand mixers also feature variable speeds, and use multiple attachments, so you’re still getting all the good features of a stand mixer, too. Unless you’re a professional (or baking a lot), you won’t notice the difference in power. As a huge added bonus, hand mixers are also infinitely more cost-effective than stand mixers.

MUST: Pressure Cooker / Multi Cooker

Instant Pot multi-cooker

Pressure cookers and multi-cookers are certainly having a moment right now (raise your hand if you have an Instant Pot already!), but it’s for good reason. This single kitchen appliance does a lot of work – and it does it fast. Cooking with pressure cooks much quicker than traditional methods.

You will be hard-pressed to find any other kitchen appliance as versatile as this one. It can obviously pressure cook, and it’s much safer than the old-school stovetop variety. However, you will find that these appliances can also steam, slow-cook, cook perfect rice, sauté, braise, hard-boil eggs, and more.

On top of doing basically everything, it does all of that in a single easy-to-clean pot. Even if you need to sauté onions or brown beef before cooking a stew, it can all be done with the same appliance.

Related: Everything You Should Know About the Instant Pot

MUST: Air Fryer Toaster Oven

Oster air fryer toaster oven

Similar to all the popular multi-cookers like the Instant Pot, there are now small appliances that combine the perks of air fryers and toaster ovens. Basically, between one of these and an instant pot, you could probably cook just about anything (just in small quantities!).

These combo air fryer toaster ovens are essentially smaller, powerful convection ovens. They circulate hot air around inside thanks to a fan, so that it gets around every side of the food. This helps your food cook faster and more evenly. Some air fryer toaster ovens even come with rotisserie attachments so that you can make your very own rotisserie chicken right in your own kitchen.

These appliances have a bigger footprint than many other small kitchen appliances, but they can definitely earn their keep. When making smaller quantities, this appliance means not having to turn on the regular oven and heating up the kitchen. It heats up and cooks quicker than an oven, too. Plus, all the added functions mean it replaces the need for other appliances, like basic air fryers and even a toaster.

MUST: Food Processor

Nina food processor

Have you realized that I really like multitasking appliances? Gadgets that do more than one thing pull their weight, and the food processor stands among the best of them.

A good food processor will help save you time in the kitchen, thanks to its ability to chop, shred, dice, and mix. Things that take a bit by hand are suddenly done at the press of a button. It is also essential for making the perfect sauces and dressings in a snap. In my kitchen, though, the food processor is key for creating my homemade veggie burger patties.

Did you know that you can even use your food processor to grind whole coffee beans?

Not Worth It: Regular Toaster Oven

Black+Decker toaster oven

Seriously, who buys a regular toaster oven? The only person I’ve ever known to have one was my grandmother. Perhaps if you have a massive kitchen with tons of countertop space and you just can’t figure out how to fill it up, then you should get a toaster oven. Otherwise, I say skip this small appliance.

Unless you’re looking at the air fryer toaster oven that I’ve already mentioned as a must-have, this appliance falls flat. They take up a good bit of space on the counter, and they don’t do anything special.

There’s nothing that a toaster oven does that you can’t accomplish with the regular oven or toaster that’s already sitting in your kitchen. Does it heat up quicker than an oven, and crisp up leftovers better than a microwave? Absolutely. Does that justify purchasing this beast? Probably not. Save the cash.

Not Worth It: Immersion Circulator

immersion circulator

Immersion circulators are really cool, make no mistake. However, if we’re really looking at essential small appliances that every kitchen needs, this one isn’t it.

A sous vide immersion circulator sits partially submerged as it heats and circulates water, maintaining a precise and consistent temperature. Meat or vegetables are placed into sealed bags or canning jars and submerged into the water. The technique cooks the food slowly and evenly.

Look, unless you’re chomping at the bit to cook sous vide all the time, you don’t really need this appliance. Most home cooks aren’t regularly stuffing legs of lamb into vacuum-sealed bags and then dumping them into a temperature-controlled water bath.

In the event you have some extra money to spend, or you are really interested in learning to cook sous vide, it’s worth noting that new immersion circulators no longer cost thousands of dollars, and they’ll connect with your smartphone.

Not Worth It: Electric Grill

Hamilton Beach indoor electric grill

I get the argument for electric indoor grills. What if it’s raining, or it’s really cold outside, and you don’t want to use the outdoor grill? Plus, electric grills don’t require a flame, eliminating the need for fuel or charcoal.

Here’s my qualm, though: we don’t need an electric grill to grill things indoors. They take up extra countertop or cabinet space, for something we can already accomplish without them. Do you already have a stove in your kitchen? Great! Pick up an inexpensive grill pan. It will be easier to store, easier to clean, and just as easy to use.

Not Worth It: Deep Fryer

Hamilton Beach deep fryer

I went through a brief phase where I was obsessed with fair food. Okay, I’m still obsessed with fair food. What I meant was, I went through a phase where I needed to make all that deep-fried deliciousness from the comfort of my own kitchen. You know, for when the fair wasn’t in town. So, I bought a deep fryer.

I liked it a lot for, say, two weeks. I even learned how to make deep-fried candy bars. And now, I can’t tell you the last time I even touched it. I discovered that it’s just not worth all the trouble.

Most of the things I fry on a regular basis, like fritters and fries, come out just as good in a pan on the stovetop. By the time I hauled out the deep fryer, filled it up with oil, brought it up to temp, and dropped the basket in, the tater tots on the stovetop would have already been done. On top of that, deep fryers take a lot of oil to fill, and they’re certainly not the easiest thing to clean.

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